IHA has had a number of government affairs achievements in the last four years with some of the more notable victories discussed below.
New UPU Agreement: The housewares industry realized a victory when the Universal Postal Union (UPU) agreed to revise international postal rates to stop discriminating against U.S. shippers. Founded in 1875, the UPU sets postal rates among member countries and had a formula where it cost some $20 to mail a small parcel in the U.S. but only $5 from China to the U.S. IHA joined a coalition to fix the UPU agreement and along with the White House, pushed to allow the U.S. to self-declare rates for inbound packets and bulky letters. The UPU approved such a proposal and in 2020 the U.S. could charge foreign posts up to 70% of retail domestic rates (or 80% if needed), meaning foreign shippers pay about the same as U.S. shippers. UPU Director General Bishar Hussein visited the U.S. to present the new rates to President Trump and met with IHA and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Shipping Container Rates: On June 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA), which strengthens Federal Maritime Commission authority to crack down on ocean carriers’ unreasonable business practices including shipping container rates. IHA lobbied for OSRA and was one of the bill’s original endorsers. IHA also participated in a coalition to build support for OSRA, and individual IHA members played a key role in OSRA’s success by using an e-platform to urge their respective members of Congress to vote for the bill.
Counterfeit Products: On Dec. 29, 2022, President Biden signed an omnibus bill that included the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness Online Retail Marketplace for Consumers (INFORM Consumers) Act. IHA and the Buy Safe America Coalition backed the INFORM Consumers Act to rein in counterfeit products sold on e-platforms. IHA President Derek Miller submitted comments to a Commerce Dept. notice seeking input on curbing counterfeits, explaining that legitimate businesses are often victims of counterfeits that compete with goods made by IHA member companies. The INFORM Consumers Act requires online marketplaces to verify high-volume third-party sellers by acquiring a government ID, tax ID, bank account and contact information. High-volume third-party sellers are defined as vendors who have made 200 or more discrete sales in a 12-month period amounting to $5,000 or more.
Country of Origin Labeling: IHA had another victory when the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act did not pass in the last Congress. It would create new liability for retailers and sellers to post the country-of-origin of a product, which is a complex task determined by trade laws and U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforcement. The COOL Online Act would require retailers and sellers to certify the accuracy of country-of-origin information from a manufacturer or vendor and shift enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission. IHA and the Country of Origin Labeling Online Coalition communicated with congressional leaders to oppose adding the COOL Online Act to “must-pass” legislation based on its unworkable provisions and the fact that it’s never been subject to a hearing.
The effort to bottle up the COOL Online Act continues to be successful in the current Congress and will be maintained unless significant improvements are made to the bill. IHA’s government affairs team also works on many other policy fronts to advocate for legislative and regulatory proposals that could help IHA member companies, or to fight those that threaten the housewares industry.